How Healthy Relationships Protect the Heart & Brain

by Psyguy on July 12, 2010 · 0 comments

in Calgary Psychologists

By John M. Kennedy, MD, FACC

Remember that first kiss?

Recent medical research suggests the powerful emotional bonds for our loved ones (particularly for spouses), may have important clinical significance, especially when it comes to the health of our heart and brain.

In fact, data supports the notion of “make love not war” when it comes to relationships and may have important cardiovascular implications.

Lovers’ Quarrels Can Break Your Heart

The Broken Heart Syndrome is a peculiar and occasionally lethal cardiac condition that often mimics a heart attack and can be triggered by an intense emotional experience such as a marital spat or domestic abuse. These emotionally charged events lead to sudden surges in stress hormones (adrenaline) which cause a rapid and profound decline in cardiac function. Fortunately, unlike a heart attack the condition is usually  reversible.

In a study published in the NEJM, 19 patients with the broken heart syndrome were mostly postmenopausal women with additional triggers included grieving over the death of a loved one, armed robbery, court appearance and public speaking.

Additional research relating spousal arguing patterns and cardiac events was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007. The study showed that arguing with your spouse could be hazardous to your cardiovascular health and that individuals who experienced high levels of negativity in their close personal relationships — especially marriage — were 1.34 times more likely to experience chest pain, heart attacks and even sudden cardiac death.

Happy, Healthy Relationships Protect the Heart & Brain

Healthy, Loving Brains

Research says a happy wedlock may help prevent fatal strokes in men.

The study found a correlation between reported “happiness” in marriage and the likelihood that a man will die from stroke.

Data was collected from 10,000 men, all of them civil servants, beginning in 1965, the research was presented to experts at the American Stroke Association’s International Conference earlier this year.

And single men in the study were found to have a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke compared to married men.

The quality of the marriage also appeared to be important. Men in an unhappy union had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke than those who reported being happy in their marriage.

Healthy, Loving Hearts

Studies show when couples in healthy, high quality marriages were told to argue about a real-life problem, their supportive and constructive behaviors during the argument seemed to lower both partners’ stress hormone levels, especially the wife’s. The couples that showed the least negativity when having a marital argument had the best immune system responses.

In addition, healthy women who reported being in highly satisfying relationships developed significantly fewer symptoms of cardiovascular disease over an 11-year period, compared to women in moderate and low-satisfaction relationships.

Have a Heart

So, have a heart and think of “Love not War” the next time you and your significant other have a heated, passionate discussion.

Imagine how you fell in love with your spouse. Remember how you first met, your first kiss, a sunset and romantic walk on the beach…it will help heal your heart and brain in more ways than one.

About the Author

Dr. John  M. Kennedy is the co-author of The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day. He works as the Director of Preventive Cardiology and Wellness at Marina Del Rey Hospital, Marina del Rey, California.

He is on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association and speaks regularly on their behalf. Dr. Kennedy is a board certified cardiologist and has published articles in peer reviewed journals such as The American Heart Journal, Journal of American College of Cardiology and Circulation.

He is an Associate Clinical Professor at Harbor – UCLA and is a Lifechanger expert on NBC’S EXTRATV and has been featured on numerous national television and radio broadcasts.

His special interest, which is highlighted in his book, is stress and how it adversely affects our delicate cardiovascular system. Working as an invasive cardiologist, he has seen countless examples of how stress can trigger cardiac events. These powerful, emotionally charged experiences inspired him to develop the BREATHE technique—a simple stress relieving tool designed to help people relax and protect their heart.

Learn more at his sites:

Dr. John M. Kennedy
The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day

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  2. How Happiness Makes You Healthy
  3. What is Positive Psychology?
  4. Making Happiness Happen
  5. Your Three Brains and You

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